joinDOTA interviews Ayesee aka SexyVoice

posted by Jaywalker,
You love his sweet and sexy voice, but how much do you know about him? I decided to interview us Aaron 'Ayesee' Chambers and he discusses about the D2L, casting at The International, meeting Gabe Newell, and his addiction issues.

It has been a year since we last spoke. You started casting with It’s Gosu Monthly Madness and you’re now working on the RaidCall D2L with Evil Geniuses. How has your casting experience changed since you first started out?

It was early March 2012 when I made the switch from casting Starcraft II to casting Dota 2, and that was the best decision I've ever made. From working with Chinese teams for Monthly Madness Asia, to being honored with the chance to cast The International II and work with Valve, and on to working with Evil Geniuses for the RaidCall D2L... I mean, really, what more could I possibly have asked for in such a short time frame?

When I started with the Monthly Madness series, the goal was always to try to end up at The International in the long term... but no one, least of all me, expected to be there in 2012! From there I was contacted by a number of organizations regarding full time casting, and I immediately knew that Evil Geniuses and the D2L were the best fit for me, especially after meeting Alex Garfield in Seattle.

As much as things have changed, they've also stayed the same. Sticking to the mantra of service and improvement has always been the goal. So long as I never lose sight of how I ended up where I am right now – passionate work, the support of a community that's been so unbelievably kind, and the friendship and support of the people I'm fortunate enough to work with day to day – I'll always be able to keep my focus where it belongs... on serving others and having a lot of fun in the process.

On the topic of change, lets discuss about the game itself. In your eyes, how has the game changed over the past year since the inception of your casts?

When I first got started Nature's Prophet and Anti Mage were instant first bans, the hero pool was about half the size it is now, and 50-60 minute farm-fests with low kill counts were more common than not. Since then we've seen the rise and fall of Morphling, the unbeatable Naga Siren be beaten, the Chaos and beauty that is Wisp, the rise of Nyx and Batrider. It's impossible to really go over every change since, but the depth and complexity of Dota 2 is proven every day as the meta-game evolves, heroes wax and wane in popularity, IceFrog does his balance voodoo, and the professional players experiment and find new ways to make us holler and applaud.

Outside of the game itself, the biggest change has been the huge groundswell of content and coverage we've seen emerge. You've got the D2L, The Defense, G League, EMS, DreamHack... the list goes on. Behind each of these tournaments you've got so much talent and passion for the game and for our industry, the future is bright beyond words for Dota 2!

Do you feel that these changes have made casting and viewing Dota 2 games a better experience?

Absolutely! Dota, as a game, is more exciting to watch and cast now than ever. With so much content and individuals participating, there's quite literally something for everyone no matter their tastes or preferences.

That's to say nothing of just how far the game has come in terms of the work Valve has done, not just regarding the client and bug-fixes, but more specifically in their unwavering dedication to offer the best viewing experience possible. With what they've done with DotaTV, you can't help but be even more excited for what they're going to come up with next.

Few casting duos can top the special mojo that you and Draskyl. What factors do you think gave you and Draskyl this much love from the community?

When you genuinely love what you're doing and believe you're in the right place in your professional career, it's very easy to put in work and time to improve your craft, and let your personality shine through. No matter what your profession, it's the hard work and dedication to serving the people around you that contribute the most to success. It takes the pressure and the nerves away... you know that even if you have a bad day you're still doing the work you value above everything else. When you get to that point, it doesn't matter how tired, how irritable, or how nervous you are, because you're enthusiastic and having fun. And if there's anything I'd label as truism in broadcasting, it's that enthusiasm is contagious.

Aside from that, I feel that my broadcasting experience compliments his world class analysis. My analysis isn't nearly on the level of his, but we've worked together so long that we're very often on the same page with our thoughts. Because of that, I can instinctively set him up for deep analysis by offering middle-tier analysis on which he can build and tantalize viewers with stuff beyond my ken. I could go on, but the bottom line doesn't need that much explaining: regardless of why the community has reacted favorably to us in the past, Draskyl and I are both unbelievably thankful for that support and are always working on improving to earn that support a little more each day.

Ayesee and Draskyl sync well together, but there are times when he is unavailable for your disposal. How have you managed during casts without him?

Draskyl is certainly my preferred casting partner just because of how well we work together and how comfortable we are together, but I can't say I've had many problems when he's otherwise engaged or indisposed. I've been very lucky to have been embraced not only by the Dota community, but to have built dozens and dozens of friendships with the great people in the professional community as well. I've been able to tap people like Epi, PaintItGold, and BuLba to fill in for Draskyl, just to name a few.

I've also been putting a lot of work into improving my solo-casting. In all cases the community reaction has been generally favorable, and really, it all just fits in with the mantra I mentioned above: the number one priority is serving the community and finding ways to improve in the process. So long as we're doing that, no matter who's available and who isn't, I feel like we're moving in the right direction.

The International 2 was your first and only LAN experience thus far, and it was an overwhelming experience for everyone. Tell us about what made TI2 a special experience for you personally.

When IceFrog reached out to me and gave me the invite, I had only been casting Dota for four months! To have had it come so early was really a validation that I had placed myself in the right situations, working with the right people, in the right industry and in service of the right people in our community. If anything, being a part of The International II had the opposite effect on me from what most would predict. It humbled me completely... humbled me to my core. And it's with that same drive, humility, and gratitude that I continue to do what I was doing back then.

What made it the most memorable, though, was the people I had a chance to get to know and with whom I got to work. At that point I knew Draskyl, I had only briefly spoken to Tobi and LD. After Seattle, I walked away having had the pleasure to shake hands and share a hug or two with dozens of people I'm proud to call colleagues and friends now. From fellow casters like Tobi, LD, Lumi, and Draskyl, to all the players I'd come to know from our tournaments, I could go on and on. Just getting a chance to put faces and voices to the names I'd known for so long turned it into a big party where I got to "catch up" with all the people I'd worked with... that's what made it truly special.

Probably the best "meet and greet" for me was a chance encounter with Gabe Newell. The first day, about an hour before opening ceremonies, I was hanging out in the back staff lounge alone just kinda relaxing into things and trying to soak in exactly where I was... and he just walked in and sat down beside me. I did a double take, collected my thoughts, and introduced myself. From there we proceeded to have a chat for about 20 minutes about eSports and so on. Just having the chance to talk shop with one of the most innovative and successful people on the planet was a treat in itself. More than anything else just having the chance to thank him for all he'd done not just for Dota 2 and for me personally, but for all he'd done for our entire industry... well, it was exciting. And though I hope to have the chance to talk with him again this year, that's a memory I'll be carrying with me forever.

Your current work in the D2L has earned a lot of praise for its consistency and quality casts. How has the experience of casting D2L been?

I really can't say enough about how happy I am working with EG and on the D2L. The support staff is simply amazing. Draskyl and I don't have to handle any background administration at all, and that frees us up to focus on delivering the highest quality broadcasts we can. We've had some hiccups along the way the way, but they're all so dedicated to doing everything they can to make sure the collective vision we all have for the D2L is realized.

So far as the actual casting, I'm fortunate to find myself in a situation everyone dreams of being in: I wake up every morning excited to get to work, and excited to be doing what I'm doing. We have, in my opinion, the most deep team roster of any tournament in the Western world, and I'm privileged enough to cast them 4-6 days a week, and make a full time living doing it.

With the playoffs looming and the end of season 2 approaching, which team do you feel stands the best chance to win it all? (Interview conducted prior to Empire roster change)

As it stands right now it's pretty hard not to label Empire as the favorite. They were our champions in Season 1, and they've been absolutely dominating so far in the group stage, racking up a 5-1 record with solid wins over teams like Na'Vi, Team Liquid, and No Tidehunter. Then you have to look at a squad like Fnatic, which have been playing phenomenal Dota and quietly putting together an 80%+ win percentage over more than 10 matches in the last couple of weeks. They've been scary good for a while now, and are showing no signs of letting up. If they can stay consistent through Spring, they have an excellent shot at dethroning Empire.

We're just a smidgen past the halfway point in our group stage, though, so it's definitely still anyone's tournament to win.

Lets focus now on yourself as a caster. What do you believe are your best casting qualities?

Well, what I hear most from fans and viewers tends to be euphemisms and metaphors for my voice, usually involving some sexualized characteristics of chocolate... all I really know to say about my voice is that I'm happy people enjoy it, because it ain't like I could trade it in for a new one if they didn't! [Laughs]

Jokes aside, though, if there's anything about which I genuinely pride myself, it's a highly professional work ethic based on years of experience broadcasting in other fields. Decades from now what I want people to remember me for isn't the sound of my voice, but for setting a high standard of integrity and professionalism that made people proud to be a part of the eSports community, and to share it with others.

A year ago, you mentioned that you needed to improve your pure analytical knowledge, camera work, and a deeper understanding into the minds of individual players. How has the progress to improve as a caster been?

Just like anything else it all just has to come with time and experience. I've put a lot more experience under my belt in the last year, and have certainly chalked up the man hours. I feel like I've made major strides in all of the areas you mentioned, most especially in pure game knowledge and in understanding the tendencies and thought processes of the players. But that's not really something I can evaluate for myself, only the viewers and fans are qualified to make that determination. From my point of view, no matter how much I improve in any area, striving for perfection always has to be the goal. From that mindset it doesn't matter how much I do or don't improve, the next step if always the same: keep working hard, keep getting better, keep finding new and better ways to serve the people who support you. The rest will sort itself out in time, one way or another.

In terms of viewership, we have witnessed your increasing popularity and gains in viewership in a tremendous fashion. You’ve gone from averaging a few thousand viewers a year ago to over ten thousand viewers currently. When was the moment when you had your biggest breakthrough, and what has your reaction been to this continued growth?

The Na`Vi vs.Team Liquid match was definitely a breakthrough for us. We hit 28,000 viewers live on stream plus a couple thousand in game, and thousands more across the various other non-English streams. From that point on we've been enjoying consistently higher viewership than we had before... but only by a few thousand. We were squarely in the 10-12k range previously.

Honestly, it's been more of a slow process of growth than anything that culminated in a big break out. We didn't have the biggest prize pool in Season 1, and we don't have the biggest prize pool in Season 2. What we do have, though, is an absurdly deep team pool and passionate individuals. Just as our ability to deliver Dota content has improved over all that time, so have our numbers. It's a winning formula... and one that jives with my own personal approach very well. It's one of the many reasons I'm so happy to be where I am, and excited to take the D2L and our viewers to new places in the future.

Lets talk about your addiction. You’re addicted to giving shoutouts after every cast my friend. Do you need help?

Sure do! I need MOAR NAMES! So you know that 28,000 concurrent number I mentioned before? Not nearly enough. Let's double it, okay? At LEAST double it. Great? Great! Good talk! Annnnnnnnnnnnd BREAK!

Finally, lets talk about your future plans. What can we expect from you both online and on LAN?

Well, the online portion is easy. We of course have the rest of D2L Season 2 to go, which is shaping up to be truly spectacular, especially once it's playoff time. There are also a few projects in the works I've been invited to be a part of in the future, and I'll be doing everything I can to somehow make the times work in order to be on stream even more outside of the D2L.

So far as LAN, as always, that's mostly up to the viewers and fans! I'd be beyond thrilled to have the chance to work with 2GD and the GD Studio on events like DreamHack. There's The International III, of course. My drive to return to Seattle this year is more intense than I can put into words. No matter the case, be it DreamHack or TI3 or some other event, I'd be honored to have the chance to broadcast live again. I just have to convince everyone else that's where I belong, too! [Laughs]

Coming months are going to be very, very interesting for fans of the D2L. Lots of changes, enhancements and expansions on the way. Still lots of work and planning to be done, but I don't think anyone will be disappointed.

A year ago I had a blast doing my first ever eSports interview with you, and it is a pleasure to be interviewing you once again today. Thanks for doing this interview Ayesee, do you have any shoutouts?

First of all, a big thanks to you, Calvin. This is a very sentimental interview for me, as it's been almost a year since our first together, and that interview played such a huge role in getting my name into the community. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for that support back then, and for the chance to work with you now, my friend.

A big thank you to everyone I mentioned in this interview for being an awesome part of my life. Thanks to Evil Geniuses and all of the support they've showed me, giving me the chance to broadcast the D2L. Thanks to the sponsors of the D2L: RaidCall, Monster Energy, Intel, and Sapphire. Above all else, thanks to the community and everyone reading this interview. Without people like you our industry wouldn't exist – we all owe each and every one of you so much.


Support Ayesee on Twitter @ayesee and myself @jD_Jaywalker.

Photos from Valve, joinDOTA, and dpm.